A mother of three was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer after donning her bikini for a day at the beach.
Boston native Julie Devaney Hogan, now 38, was getting ready to soak up the sun on Labor Day last year when she felt a pea-sized lump under her right nipple.
Doctors initially dismissed the ‘almost-there’ bump as ‘nothing to worry about’, but after testing, Ms Hogan was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer that had already spread to her circulation.
The full-time tech manager has now undergone a double mastectomy – or removal of both breasts – and 12 rounds of chemotherapy. But when tests showed the cancer was still there, she prescribed another course that won’t end until next year.
Julie Devaney Hogan, now 38 and from Boston, first became concerned when she felt a bump under her right nipple when she put on her bikini. It felt about the size of a pea
She is the mother of three children David, now eight, Ryan, six, and Clare, two. They are pictured above. She also has a husband named Dave
Revealing how Ms Hogan was diagnosed at age 37, with less than five per cent of annual cases under age 40she said TODAY: ‘My bikini saved my life.’
She added in an essay written to her breasts, “Labor Day weekend 2022, as I tucked you into a bathing suit while getting ready to go to the beach, I felt a barely there pebble inside you.
“That pebble eventually became the breast-eating beast of invasive ductal carcinoma, aka stage three breast cancer.”
After the weekend last September, she called her doctor about the lump, but was promptly told it was “nothing wrong.”
But a good friend, a nurse, urged her to get scans and tests done as a precaution.
The following week Mrs. Hogan was able to secure an appointment where the doctors again said the lump was ‘nothing wrong’.
However, medical experts added that if Ms Hogan was concerned, she could get a mammogram – which checks the breasts for cancer – and a biopsy – which would test the tissue from the lump for the disease.
“I probably could have shrugged it off and said, ‘I’m busy, I have things to do,'” she said. “I’m very thankful I didn’t.”
Mrs Hogan went for the tests, which revealed that the lump was something more sinister – it was stage three breast cancer.
This was also an aggressive form, or HER2-positive type (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2), growing faster and spreading faster than other types.
Doctors quickly put her through surgery and 12 rounds of chemotherapy.
But after she completed the course, further scans showed that the cancer had not completely disappeared.
She has now started a new course of chemotherapy which is due to end next year. She will also undergo reconstructive breast surgery in November.
Speaking of her diagnosis, she said, “There were no other symptoms.
“I didn’t present in any way or have a family history or other symptoms that would make me highly alert.
On the impact the cancer has had on her life, she said, ‘Cancer can be somewhat glorified and dramatized on TV, so you have this expectation of what it’s going to be.
“And suddenly I go from a busy mother with a career to a very sick person.
“(But) the reality is you get the diagnosis and then you come home, and your kids are still yelling at you because you didn’t open their cheese the right way.”
She is pictured above prior to her double mastectomy. She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer
In the essay about her breasts published in January this year, before they were removed, Ms. Hogan described how, as an avid skater, sprinter and soccer player at the age of 16, she had not been thrilled when they first emerged.
She also said she had trouble producing milk for her two sons David, now eight, and Ryan, six, but not for her daughter Clare, three, the youngest.
Mrs. Hogan wrote, “I got used to closing my eyes too often when I put my sad stash in the fridge (at work), because I didn’t want to feel the pang of jealousy that often came with catching a glimpse of ( other mothers) icy, full, ready-to-feed bottles.’
But after the birth of her third child, she said her breasts went into “overdrive” and would lead to her waking up at night with wet sheets.
“I discreetly tilted my computer’s camera above my neck,” she said, “because if you heard my baby crying in the other room, you’d cry too — and leak all over my outfit during Zoom calls.”
Exactly one year after she stopped breastfeeding at age 37, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
To help other diagnosed women, Ms. Hogan created Season for Squeezin’, which encourages younger women – who are less at risk for cancer – to check their breasts.
Each year, approximately 264,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the most common forms in women.
Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women age 55 and older, with only about five percent in the under-40 category — Ms.
Doctors aren’t clear on the cause of breast cancer, but say someone with a family history, obesity, and regular alcohol consumption is at higher risk.
All women are told to get mammograms every year between ages 45 and 54 to check for cancer, and every two years from age 55.
Those ages 25 to 39 can also opt for a clinical breast exam every one to three years.
Treatment focuses on surgery to remove affected tissue and chemotherapy if it has spread to other organs.